When identifying one’s personal online identity, there are a variety of forms that come to mind: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. These pages are a self-designed representation of yourself, in a way that you wish to be perceived. As you are the creator of your online identity, there may be a lack of authenticity. Due to the public nature of the internet, there can be a tendency for individuals to manipulate their profile in a manner they feel is more acceptable to viewers. This can go as far as creating a different identity altogether. For most people there may not be uniformity across their identities; e.g. your LinkedIn profile may represent you very differently to your Instagram account.
What individuals may not realise, is that they create online identity’s every time they use the web. In doing this they leave behind traces whenever they access the internet, which is known as your digital footprint (InternetSocietyVideo 2016). Companies use this information to create a customer profile, meaning they can direct certain marketing towards you. As a consumer I feel this is a positive, as you learn about products you may be interested in but have never encountered. “Terms and conditions may apply” however, is a documentary explaining how companies possessing your online identity can be a worry.
I believe, there is no problem possessing multiple online identities; an issue is created when the purpose of them are malicious or to deceive. An example of this is the documentary “Catfish“. You could be anyone online; it is easy to create an identity far from your offline self. I personally experienced someone using my pictures to represent herself; this resulted in myself receiving abusive messages from the man who had been deceived. The lack of this woman’s authenticity resulted in negative emotional externalities to be brought upon myself. Multiple online identities can be problematic when they are used to facilitate cyber-bullying, in 2015 Childline counselled over 11,000 children about online issues (NSPCC 2015). In this scenario, the online identity provides a shield for the bully to hide behind and act in a way their offline identity would not.
Regardless of your view on possessing multiple identities, it seems difficult to escape holding them if you wish to fully utilise/engage with what the internet has to offer. It is vital we understand the importance of maintaining an appropriate online identity, especially for professional purposes.
- Catfish Trailer (2010) Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuE98oeL-e0
- Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013) Cullen Hoback https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzyafieRcWE
- Internet Society Video, Four reasons to care about your digital footprint (2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro_LlRg8rGg
- NSPCC, Childline Report 2015/16 https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/annual-reports/childline-annual-review-2015-16.pdf
- Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?, Aleks Krotoski (2012) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity
- Powtoons, What is an online identity?, Tiffany To (2016) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RnoVs6losUc&feature=em-upload_owner
- Internet Society, Understanding your online identity: An overview of Identity (2011) http://www.opus1.com/www/whitepapers/identity-overview1.pdf
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